Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything of any substance here on DTSFT. Family bereavement and personal illness, such pesky things. But I’m back now, and ready to present to you a post that I’ve been planning for a little while to coincide with another post on my current addiction, delaying it only because people are so scared of hearing that dreaded C-word.
Yes, while most of the world waits for the Coca Cola advert to determine the acceptable time to talk about Christmas, DFS and Park catalogues have decided that mid-October is the right time to start wheeling out their Christmas campaigns while we’re all still bracing ourselves for the onslaught of candy-beggars in the guise of Halloween trick-or-treaters. But as I’ve previously mentioned (I seem to previously mentioned everything on this blog, don’t I?), I bloody love Christmas and can’t wait for it – in fact I’ve been waiting for it since the point of no return, aka June. That’s when I made my plan, you see…
You’ll hopefully remember (may Zeus cast you down into the fiery arms of Hades if you don’t) that I had some time off from work for an operation in July and then never went back. I had a lot of time on my hands at this point, and one of the things I realised was that without a job, I’d have no money. Seriously deep thinking led me to that realisation, I know. Genius material, here. But it got me thinking about how much money I spend on tat when it comes to Christmas. My shopping process goes like this:
1 – Make a list (check it twice, monitor behaviour of friends using “naughty” and “nice” columns)
2 – Divide up shopping budget accordingly
3 – Go and buy thoughtful presents in September/October and put them away
4 – Around mid-December, get presents and wrap them up, ready to go
5 – Get caught up in Christmas campaigns and end up buying extra presents
6 – Wade further into poverty, trinket by trinket
I love to give presents, I love to receive them too, and I think that presents mean a lot more when they’ve been properly considered. I mean, when I was just getting on my own money for the first time and realised I had to buy presents for friends, I was one of those people who would go and buy a ‘bath set’ or little toiletries gift set – I swear, that’s basically what everyone gives/gets around Christmas. And they’re not bad gifts, I’m not saying that I hated the ones I got. However, now that money is tight and I’m older, I’m trying to make this Christmas a little more meaningful while at the same time substantially cheaper. So I’m doing a DIY Christmas! Here are my ideas of some home-made, DIY or craft ideas that make awesome gifts (and any of my friends reading it should just get this into their heads now – your present will absolutely be from this list)
1. Knitted gifts
A couple of months back, I learned how to knit and since then I have made about 5 un-finished scarves (way to focus, Helen!). One thing I always wanted to learn how to make was hats, because I think it would be cool to just knit a hat and give it to someone and be like, “Yeah I know I’m awesome, have this hat as testament to that” before walking away while fireworks go off behind me but I’m too cool to turn around to look – I’m way too busy knitting hats for that kind of shit. But most of the tutorials I looked up on the internet required using 4 of the double ended needles, which – thanks to my nan – I had, but I lacked the concentration span to learn how to use them. Then I noticed that loads of hat instructional videos were for crochet, and looking through my sweet knitting stuff I found a shit load of crochet hooks and mastered – maybe not mastered – the art of crochet.
Whether you choose to crochet or knit, or even if you’re more into sewing or cross-stitch, hand-made textile gifts are brilliant and can be really personal if you do them right – for example, you could make a cushion and embroider an initial on it, or crochet/knit a scarf in your friend’s favourite colour for them. The price of a ball of yarn isn’t that much, but the fact that you have put in the time and effort to make something adds a priceless quality to your gift.
Right, I know I just said that I didn’t want to give toiletry sets this year but let me explain. I love making my own toiletries, like face-masks and scrubs and bath salts – that kind of thing, and while I like to get stuff from Lush because they are eco-friendly and their products are ethically made, I have found that their prices have risen considerably in the last few years and it’s just too expensive to keep buying presents from there.
When I was younger and I still read magazines like Bliss, I used to love the little hints and tips that were dotted throughout and one that I remember trying as soon as I saw it was how to save money on buying exfoliators by using sugar with your normal facial wash. I was a spotty pre-teen and this revelation changed my life! I started experimenting with other homemade “cosmetics” and now I don’t buy expensive cosmetics and toiletries, because I think that the natural remedies are much better (and cheaper).
By investing in some of the basic ingredients and some jars (you can use cleaned out jam jars when you’re finished with them and use some nice fabric and elastic on the top to make them look better), you can create a whole bunch of different homemade and natural toiletries to make brilliant gifts. Combinations of sugar, salt, honey, lemon, aloe vera, mint, rosemary, coconut oil and rosewater (not all together, dear god not all together) can yield some beautiful natural remedies that look beautiful, smell great and work wonders.
3. Food in jars
Speaking of jars, on my quest to find some great ideas for homemade gifts, I repeatedly came across the idea of filling a jar with the ingredients for a recipe. Here’s how it works:
You start with a clean, dry jar and measure out the dry ingredients for a recipe. This could be a simple hot chocolate or something that requires more work like a biscuit recipe. Then you layer these ingredients up so that they look beautiful in the jar, and add instructions for how to combine these with any wet ingredients (if you put the wet ingredients in the jar with the dry, they could clump or clot, plus they are more likely to have a shelf-life, whereas with the basic dry elements of a recipe will normally keep for a lot longer). I think this idea is genius, especially if you’re doing a biscuit mix because you can add all manner of ingredients based on what your friends like – not everyone likes oat and raisin, and some people (like me) really don’t appreciate finding smarties or M&M’s in an otherwise delicious biscuit, but this way you can tailor your recipe to exactly your friend’s taste, making a great personalised gift. There are some great tips on how to do this on the Bakerella website.
And it’s not just biscuits that go in jars. My brother loves to experiment with cooking, and one thing he always likes to do is make dry rubs for meat, and he’s really damn good at it too. I recently bought a bunch of jars in preparation for my Christmas gifts and gave him a jar to use for keeping his rubs in rather than the flimsy Tupperware he normally ends up using. I would have made him a spice-mix to go in that jar but if you’ve ever eaten anything cooked by me, then you’re either reading this from the hospital or beyond the grave.
4. Photos in an album
Remember when we used to have to take our camera films to be developed and wait for a few days before we could see them? That was actually preferably to the way things are now, in my opinion. I hate – not dislike, HATE – when people spend ages taking the same photo over and over (mostly of themselves) and delete the ones they don’t like, then upload 400 variations of the same picture onto Facebook expecting comments and likes on each one. I remember when we would take pictures at parties and outings to capture the moment as it was, not how we’d rehearsed it or wanted it to look. I have loads of actual printed photos from when I was a teenager, but after the age of around 18 that kind of died out when my brother gave me a digital camera for my birthday, and although I thankfully haven’t developed the habit of taking hundreds of vanity photos of myself covered in painstakingly applied make-up, I have fallen into the trap of using Facebook to create my photo albums without a physical backup.
So wouldn’t it be a great gift to give someone an actual photo album they could hold in their hands, full of pictures and memories of the two of you that they can keep and look at whenever they want? I think it’s such an awesome personal gift, and who doesn’t love looking through photos? They can evoke memories from better times, cheer you up when you’re having a crappy day, or even inspire you to pick up the phone and call your friend. My friend once gave me a really beautiful photo album that she’d compiled of photos of us together, with great captions that make me laugh even when I read them today. It’s a really thoughtful gift that any good friend would really appreciate.
To make it completely from scratch, you could send off your film to be processed properly if you still have a camera that isn’t digital (what the hell are you, some kind of dinosaur?) or if you’re using your digital camera or photos taken from online albums – because let’s face it, that’s bound to happen – you could invest in some photo printing paper if you want your pictures to look like actual photographs, or just use plain paper if you’re not that bothered. There are endless possibilities when it comes to the album itself – you could go for a big, novelty scrap-book kind of photo album, using sheets of cardboard covered with fabric, crepe or patterned paper, and sew together the individual pages by punching holes in the top and bottom left corners of each page and binding them with ribbons or yarn. Or you could go for a more traditional approach and buy a basic plain photo album and embellish it yourself. There’s a brilliant guide on how to make a photo album on home-made-gifts-made-easy.com which is where the above photo is from.
5. Handmade jewellery and accessories
Finally, my favourite thing – TRINKETS! As I’m sure you’ll know from my Galibardy-themed STATIWC post, I love cartoonish, cute, funky jewellery (as opposed to the classy, refined, elegant type of jewellery that reflects the nature of the person wearing it #sadface…), and when my friend gave me a really dinky pair of earrings two years ago for Christmas that she’d made herself using simple studs and two buttons, it made me want to make jewellery myself.
Now, I’m not a particularly artistic person, but I think that with a little bit of inspiration anyone can make a unique pendant or even a pair of earrings, and you’ll be guaranteed that no-one will have the same thing if you do it right.
To start, you’ll need to get the basic parts to make jewellery. You could use old parts from jewellery you no longer wear, but when it comes to things like earrings it’s better and more hygienic to buy new earring wires, and anyway it won’t set you back that much to buy some new parts – after all, these are for gifts, people!
Once you’ve got the initial parts, you can pretty much do anything from there. If you’re not one for making your own charms, there are DIY kits that are relatively cheap and yield a LOT of jewellery, like this one from Punky Pins which is just £10 (I bought it before a few years ago and kept ALL the jewellery I made. I don’t care if you judge me). For a cute combination of crafts you could crochet a flower as a pendant or a smaller one for earrings – fabric jewellery is quite unusual and pretty cool, even knitted bracelets make a unique addition to an outfit – but Sophia is really the style expert on DTSFT so if people laugh at your crocheted cuff bracelets, don’t blame me even though it would basically be my fault. And it doesn’t have to be jewellery – you could embellish plain hair clips and headbands. Once when I was a lot younger, one of the big fashion trends for girls my age was to have these big chunky headbands with your name on it in glittery letters. They sold them in places like Woolworths and Claire’s Accessories, but when I stayed at my aunt’s house during the holidays, she bought some plain headbands and glittery glue pens for my cousins and me to make our own. Not only was it a really fun activity to do on a rainy afternoon but we all ended up with our own completely unique headbands. Plain clips can be made into cute accessories with a simple fabric or ribbon bow, and the same can be applied to making brooches or badges to go on bags or to dress up a coat.
So there’s no reason for you to spend loads of money this Christmas on expensive, shallow gifts. Get creative and you’ll find that your presents will be cheaper in cost but in terms of thoughtfulness and personal meaning, they’ll be worth much, much more.